Oil tanker letter raises questions for next premier

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VICTORIA— B.C. Liberal leadership candidates need to say whether they agree with Gordon Campbell’s call for the federal Conservative government to strike down legislation to protect our northern waters from a devastating oil spill, say New Democrats.

New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming noted that while George Abbott has rejected protecting our northern coast from crude oil supertanker traffic, other candidates for premier have failed to tell British Columbians where they stand on this important issue.

“British Columbians want to know whether they can trust Christy Clark to protect the marine resources that provide jobs and economic stability for their communities. By avoiding questions about the Enbridge tar sands pipeline and crude oil supertanker traffic, Christy Clark reinforces the impression that she has nothing to offer British Columbians but more B.C. Liberal spin.

“Kevin Falcon is widely thought to be Gordon Campbell’s protégé, so people have every right to wonder whether he agrees with the disgraced premier on this issue,” said Fleming.

A letter delivered this week and signed by the departing B.C. premier urges the prime minister to defeat Bill C-606, a federal private member’s bill to protect B.C.’s sensitive and globally important northern coastal rainforest ecosystem from crude oil supertanker traffic.

“It’s clear George Abbott didn’t learn much from his time as minister of aboriginal relations,” said New Democrat energy critic Doug Donaldson. “If he did, he wouldn’t be supporting crude oil supertankers over the economic well being of First Nations and coastal communities.”

Sport and commercial fishing generate more than $1 billion a year in revenue in British Columbia, much of that in small rural communities without many other economic opportunities. A catastrophic oil spill would also negatively impact British Columbia’s $1.5 billion wilderness tourism industry, which provides more than 26,000 direct full-time jobs to the province.

Donaldson also noted that a recent report found that governments could be on the hook for billions of dollars in clean-up costs if there was a major oil spill off our northern coast.

“Commercial fishers, First Nations, communities and businesses throughout the north support protecting our marine resources from the threat of oil spills,” said Donaldson. “How can Christy Clark claim to have any credibility on northern issues when she refuses to take a stand on the future of the Great Bear Rainforest and our northern coast?”

B.C.’s New Democrats have proposed an environmental plan that would reinvest carbon tax revenue in transit and climate change initiatives, create green jobs, and offer legislated protection for species at risk.